Don’t let the Air India bombing fade from Canadians’ collective memory

By Shachi Kurl, President

June 23, 2023 – One year ago, I mused out loud about how many Canadians would know why June 23 marks this country’s National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism. This year, I decided to find out what we really know about the deadliest mass killing of their fellow citizens. The answer, very sadly, is next to nothing.

Data released this week by the Angus Reid Institute shows four-in-five either incorrectly thought it was 1989’s Montreal massacre; the mass shootings around Portapique, N.S. of 2020; or 9/11 — or simply could not hazard a guess. Fewer than 20 per cent could correctly state that it was, in fact, the terrorist bombing of Air India Flight 182, and the coordinated bombing of a CP jetliner in Tokyo.

These attacks killed 331 people. The vast majority — 280 — were Canadian. They fell from the sky on June 23, 1985, crashing into the ocean off Ireland. They boarded in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal en route to summer holidays in India, but were lost to the cold depths of the North Atlantic.

A dry recitation of the facts can never capture the four decades of grief, loss and isolation suffered by the victims’ families and friends for an injustice that, today, nearly 30 per cent of Canadian adults have never heard of. This ignorance is even more stark among 18-to-34-year-olds, 60 per cent of whom do not even know of this tragedy’s existence. Two-thirds of Canadians are additionally unaware that no one was convicted on murder charges for a conspiracy hatched and carried out right here in Canada.

One might describe the catastrophe as a black stain in the pages of our history books. It is, in reality, a near blank page: a calamity that has morphed from open wound to an unhealed scar and risks fading from our collective memories entirely.

Read more from the article in the Ottawa Citizen here.

Image – M Asokan, Photo Division/Flickr

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